High-capacity tape drives on the rise

With the ever-increasing tape densities coming from companies like Quantum, Sony and Ultrium, IT staff can fit hundreds of terabytes of backup data in small form-factor libraries. This means back-up administrators don't have to juggle tapes - in some cases, for months.

Earlier this year, Quantum announced the second in a series of SuperDLT tape drives, the SDLT 320. With native capacity of 160G bytes per tape cartridge, a customer can repurpose a small, 10-slot library to hold up to 1.6 terabytes of uncompressed data or 3.2 terabytes of compressed data (assuming 2:1 compression). A 3,000-slot library would hold nearly a petabyte (1 million gigabytes) of compressed data.

For businesses small or large that are trying to manage the technology and personnel associated with the backups of server data, the SDLT 320 drives reduce the amount of tape handling previously required by the back-up administrators.

Similarly, both Sony's Advanced Intelligent Tape-3 and Ultrium's Linear Tape Open will hold 100G bytes. With a 2:1 compression ratio (Sony claims 2.6:1 or better as the norm), customers can easily fit the entire contents of one disk drive on one tape - making it simpler to recover files or an entire disk.

A long time ago, in a land not so far away, I was a system administrator, as well as principal software engineer, for a small research group. Every week, I did battle with backup.

Back in those days, we used 9-inch reel-to-reel tape with the "dump" command as our back-up technology. Every week, without fail, halfway through the backup (about 4 hours into it), the process would come to a screeching halt. I would have to put up another reel of tape, and if I didn't get the incantation just right, the dump would fail and I would have to start the backup all over again, from the start.

The moral of the story is, high-capacity tape drives are a very good thing. Couple high-capacity tape drives with tape automation in libraries and intelligent back-up software, and you won't incur the expense of having highly paid engineers and administrators be tape jockeys.

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